2008 BMW 1-series tii - North American Debut

Sam Smith
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2008 BMW 1-series tii - North American Debut

The tii concept, first shown in Tokyo, had its North American debut at the 2008 Chicago auto show.

Front Exterior

This is it, folks. This is the one the BMW diehards have been waiting for, the car that gives them a reason to haunt new-car showrooms, the car that should have come along years ago. It's not an M3; hell, it doesn't even get a Motorsport badge. Chances are, it may not even be that fast. But if they deem to build it, we can almost guarantee that it'll be fantastic.

Why should you care?

Simple. Here's why: Forty years ago, a struggling German company brought a small, two-door sedan to America. Forty years ago, that car effectively created a segment. Forty years ago, a struggling Germany company was suddenly no longer struggling. And forty years ago, every sports car freak from here to East Bumbletuck had their minds blown by a car that looked like a rounded shoebox.

That car was BMW's 1600, and the variants it spawned - including a two-liter sibling known as the 2002 and a fuel-injected, 140-hp version known as the 2002tii (for Touring International Injection)- essentially built BMW's empire. They also created a reputation that no litany of Bangle butts or iDrive knobs has yet to undo: BMW builds sport sedans. They are small, light, efficient, and fun. They last almost forever. And the cars that they build will show a clean pair of taillights - and a trunklid, and a usable back seat - to any number of pricier thoroughbreds.

And so we have the 1-series, the latest - and quite possibly the best - in a long line of small, compact, fun-to-drive Bavarian cars. In terms of concept, personality, and size, it's the closest thing to a 1600 or 2002 to come out of Munich in some time. More importantly, it's not just for Europe; BMW recently announced that a two-door, six-cylinder coupe version will be sold in the United States next year.

The car in these pictures takes its name from the 2002tii. (No BMW has worn the "tii" badge since that car ceased production in 1974.) What you're looking at is just a styling concept, but it's also a concept that BMW executives admit they would love to see in production. It takes its cues from a number of past BMW models, including the iconic early-'70s 3.0CSL coupe (note the windsplits on the hood) and the first-generation M3 (note the heavily bolstered rear seats). It's aimed at track and motorsport customers, but it's also obviously intended to be first and foremost a street car.

What the 1-series tii really means, though, is that BMW is once again paying attention. It means that the same spirit that created the E46 M3 CSL, the E39 M5, the E30 M3, and the 2002tii is still alive and kicking within the company. That the 1-series exists is a fine thing in itself; that we're going to see a version stateside is marvelous. That we have a shot at a hot, lightweight, enthusiast-oriented version? That's damn near fantastic. Sure, the name is a bit of a misnomer; the original tii wasn't a track car, and the badge essentially means nothing today (try finding a production BMW with a carburetor, why don'tcha). But in the big scheme of things, these are niggling points.

The company line out of Munich is that production possibilities for the tii are dependent on public reaction. That said, we have a reaction of our own: Build it already. We've waited long enough.

1-series Tii concept features:

-Carbon-fiber hood, mirror caps, rear diffuser, and front air intakes
-A claimed "significant reduction in overall weight" according to BMW
-Trunk-mounted Gurney flaps aimed at reducing rear lift at high speed
-Hood-mounted windsplits aimed at increasing straight-line stability (a'la 3.0CSL)
-Racing-type front seats with harness holes, integrated headrests, and side airbags
-Alcantara-covered dash, shift knob, steering wheel, and door panels
-Tii-unique air intakes on rocker panels
-White tachometer, steering wheel spokes, and door handles
-Blue-colored six-piston front brake calipers, tow hook mounting point, driver's seat stitching, driver's seatbelt
-18-inch alloy wheels
-Mesh front grille slats
-The hopes and dreams of the Automobile Staff that it will be produced

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